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And Again

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In the spirit of Station Eleven and The Age of Miracles , this exciting literary debut novel imagines the consequences when four ordinary individuals are granted a chance to continue their lives in genetically perfect versions of their former bodies.

Would you live your life differently if you were given a second chance? Hannah, David, Connie, and Linda—four terminally ill patients—have been selected for the SUBlife pilot program, which will grant them brand-new, genetically perfect bodies that are exact copies of their former selves—without a single imperfection. Blemishes, scars, freckles, and wrinkles have all disappeared, their fingerprints are different, their vision is impeccable, and most importantly, their illnesses have been cured.

But the fresh start they’ve been given is anything but perfect. Without their old bodies, their new physical identities have been lost. Hannah, an artistic prodigy, has to relearn how to hold a brush; David, a Congressman, grapples with his old habits; Connie, an actress whose stunning looks are restored after a protracted illness, tries to navigate an industry obsessed with physical beauty; and Linda, who spent eight years paralyzed after a car accident, now struggles to reconnect with a family that seems to have built a new life without her. As each tries to re-enter their previous lives and relationships they are faced with the how much of your identity rests not just in your mind, but in your heart, your body?

320 pages, Hardcover

First published January 12, 2016

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About the author

Jessica Chiarella

2 books99 followers
Jessica Chiarella grew up in the Chicago area and has a Master’s Degree in Writing and Publishing from DePaul University. She is currently a student in the University of California, Riverside’s MFA in Creative Writing program.

(from http://authors.simonandschuster.com/J...)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 434 reviews
Profile Image for Kel.
58 reviews15 followers
November 18, 2015
I received an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. I don't like saying much about the actual story in reviews, the synopsis is enough here. What I found fantastic is how this book made me feel. How I feel about who I am, who I want to be and what I would miss about my current self if it were to disappear. I loved this entirely.
Profile Image for Robin.
1,449 reviews35 followers
October 14, 2015
4.5 stars - What a terrific debut! Four people with serious health problems (two have terminal cancer, one has a serious form of AIDS, and the other is completely paralyzed and can only communicate by blinking) are given a second chance at life by transferring their brain cells to a perfect, cloned body. The author did an excellent job at keeping this realistic character and relationship based story from reading like science fiction.

The publisher compares this to Kazuo Ishiguru's NEVER LET ME GO, and it very much has that tone although not as dark. I can't quite pinpoint why, but the tone also reminded me of THE IRRESISTIBLE HENRY HOUSE by Lisa Grunwald.

I apologize in advance but thought of some alternate titles. Are you ready??? Are you sure? OK, here you go:


Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the Edelweiss e-galley.
Profile Image for Joy (joyous reads).
1,488 reviews290 followers
February 19, 2016
I’ve been looking for a novel that will challenge the way most of the cloning novels are being written. I want to see a story that shows them as more than a product of a successful lab project. Neither mechanical nor sterile; definitely not automatons devoid of human emotions. And Again delivered that for me.

This book was surprisingly fast and easy to read. Jessica’s writing felt comfortable, like a warm blanket or a comfy chair. And even though the story revolves around four people and four different perspectives, each character told their stories with ease. There’s Hannah who has lung cancer; David, a Republican congressman with a brain tumor; Linda who’s paralyzed from the neck down; and Connie a once big-time Hollywood actress who was dying from an aggressive strain of HIV. All four of them won the lottery and were chosen subjects for SUBlife. Cloning or in essence, a second chance at life. This is their story. Four narratives seamlessly connected to show us that tricking death might just be borrowing another set of troubles.

Each one of them grapples with the new life that they were given. A fresh start it may be, but they all felt awkward and uneasy. Their train of thoughts was full of doubts like they’re uncomfortable with their new bodies. This book is a bit more thoughtful rather than scientific. It didn’t ask me what my moral stance is on cloning, nor did it question the religious and social implications when one messes with the natural order of things. It’s the introspective process that these four characters went through as they try to pick up the pieces of their old lives. They couldn’t run away from the flawed life that they used to live no matter how perfect they all seem.

This book was such a lovely surprise; unexpectedly captivating in a sense that a reader will be ensconced in the characters’ new lives. I wanted them to move forward as they were before their illnesses and accident, but I saw and felt their struggles as they try to reacclimate to their surroundings.
Profile Image for Page.
307 reviews10 followers
February 28, 2016
I did not like this book. It was a hard read, because I felt unsympathetic toward all of the characters. Since it's basically four character studies, I don't have much to say that's not me ranting...
I get that everyone has their flaws and their issues, but they all were very selfish people. I found Linda to be a pretty awful person, but Hannah was the absolute worst. The subjects with families were awful to their simpering spouses and both of the subjects with children were atrocious parents.
So much so that I didn't care if they got a happy ending or not.

Basically these people got a second chance with their lives and none seemed grateful. They all spent too much time reflecting on the past, pondering about the future and doing absolutely nothing in the present. There was absolutely no character development. The worse was Connie's act in the name of fame... she didn't value herself before, and still doesn't. Good for her?

Lastly, this book pretty much exemplifies why I do not read standalones. It didn't come to conclusions about SUBlife or what it truly meant be "born again". Did they deserve a second chance? Who knows—they did absolutely ZILCH with it.

So I wonder, what was the point?
Profile Image for Rachel.
584 reviews69 followers
February 24, 2022
And Again is about four participants with terminal conditions who agreed to take part in a study that cloned their bodies, but harvested their memories. Essentially these individuals are the same people, but in different bodies - ones without the wrinkles, scars, and tattoos from before.

At first I struggled getting into the story, but soon I was hooked and didn't want to put it down. I loved how the character's lives were intertwined and also the ways they weren't. They had this big thing in common, yet they were essentially strangers. Each character has a unique struggle in this new body, which made the story interesting. In the end, And Again isn't just a well-written high concept novel, it's a beautiful and compelling story about choices and identity.
Profile Image for Leo.
4,385 reviews410 followers
December 20, 2020
What if you could get a new body that doesn't have the imperfections and illness as the old one did? What could go wrong? Such and exciting and thrilling book that I read in one go, didn't want to let go of it. It's both an entertaining story and makes you think. Highly recommend this book
Profile Image for Hannah Cassie.
404 reviews143 followers
May 6, 2017

MORE? MORE! @ P.S. I love that book!

THE WORLD: The world that surrounds us plus advanced medicine where human cloning is happening. This actually still in trails and so a few people who are very sick get to try it out. I don't even think this book is set in the future much, I mean okay it is weird how they do it because they basically grow a clone on hormones and then transfer 'you' into their brain. So when I say cloning I don't mean just identical DNA which is a pretty standard definition for clones today but literary I mean a human body in which you reside. When I think about it now it reminds me a little bit of Jodi Meadow's YA series Newsoul. Unfortunately to my great disappointment they do not go into science much so we just going to take it for granted.

CHARACTERS: There are quite a few characters that have their own POV in this story: Hannah, David, Connie and Linda. Hannah is an artist, a woman who had lung cancer and is now struggling with her lose of fame. Frankly, Hannah was just awful. Basically she gets a new life, a healthy new body but because her friend gets famous and she cannot paint anymore she starts to hate everybody and cheat and just yeah...it took me about one chapter of her POV to start hating her. Next we have Connie, a once upon a time actress who managed to contract HIV. Actually I did not get why exactly was she chosen, HIV is not lethal, not even close. With today's medicine people with HIV give long and good life. Beats me really why she was in this program. Also her post-cloning life was just...well she did what she did before, she went back to sleeping with people for a role in a movie. To my surprise David was the only male of who's POV we got to see. He was a congressman and it is not clear how he got the place other than that he manipulated and used his power. But once again, after given a brand new body and a new chance he goes back to his old life - cheating, manipulating and just being a plain jerk. And then we have Linda - pretty much worst of them all. She has spent 9 years paralyzed in the hospital bed which does qualify her to be a worthy person of new chance. But what she does with it? She hates everything and everybody, instead of trying to connect with her family she decides she want to leave. Her husband spend 9 years of his life caring for her and raising their children alone and what she does? She wants a life without all that burden. Well I am sorry but what about her husband? I mean I get it, when she says she doesn't want to be pregnant again it's actually understandable, children do take your life away, especially while they are young. But the rest...the reason she even did get into an accident that paralyzed her was because she was cheating and was on her way to run away with her secret lover...mother of the year. So yeah, you know these books where characters are messed up and just plain horrible but in the end they realize it and try to redeem themselves? That did not happen here. They were cheaters, liars and just horrible people and so they stayed that way.

LOVE: This book is full of cheating, manipulation using sex and just eww, there is no love. Love is dark and twisted in this book. Even the parental love.

PLUS: As a scientist I like the idea of cloning I guess.

MINUS: I was shocked how horrible this book was. I mean the writing itself was good but characters...just a plain nightmare.

OVERALL: I truly regret reading this book.

MORE? MORE! @ P.S. I love that book!
Profile Image for Carlene Inspired.
958 reviews249 followers
January 15, 2016
I recieved an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Four people with serious health problems are given the opportunity to transfer their brain cells to a perfect clone of their body. There are no freckles, no scars, no horrible pains from their previous body. For one year they must allow doctors to study their bodies and control their medical decisions. They must also meet with one another in a support group, where they find their physical identities have left them, their bodies are not used to their old skills, their relationships feel unnatural. Given this chance to live life again, it isn't as perfect a chance as they once thought.

Oh my goodness! This book! I wasn't sure what to expect, but this bit of genius was not it. The four characters, Hannah, David, Linda, and Connie, have left behind their previously dying bodies in exchange for new, limber bodies. While their brains have moved with them, they feel disconnected from this body they are now in. What they think will be a chance to live their life once again becomes a chance to just re-live. Their previous habits haven't died, though their bodily skills have. While Hannah cannot pick up a paint brush like she once could, David finds himself still cheating on his wife and desiring cigarettes. I mostly appreciated the lives of Linda and Connie, how different their lives became after the exchange. I wanted so badly to hold onto Linda as she fought with wanting the simplicity of her old life, one one for no and two for yes. I wanted Connie to break the cycle, to see that beauty wasn't all that should have defined her life. I so loved how Jessica Chiarella tackled the subject of cloning and giving four people new chances at life without a handbook. The questions, the stumbles, and the adjustment to the body and life were written so well. It made me think a lot; how do you go from being ill for so long, relying on those around you, planning your own death, to having life handed back to you, in a perfect form?

"...and tell her see, see, look at me, and how much I have seen, and I still am no wiser than you, little girl."

While I didn't agree with several of the characters, I ended up falling in love and rooting for them. I really appreciated the pace of the book until a little over halfway through, it sped up and I felt like I lost the characters. Their lives became simple, instead of the complex way it had started. I do like that they are lost a lot, only to find a new path, a new way to live, and new thoughts once they evaluated their life from this new perspective.

While the genre is science fiction, I feel this is more a character study, a look at a person's own self worth. There are four characters and their lives do cross paths, but you read from their alternating POV's and take a look into their lives individually. There is very little talk about cloning, outside of FDA approval, but a lot of discussion on personal perspective. There are a slew of emotions found in this book and you will find yourself feeling alongside the character. I found And Again, and all the questions it poses, so fascinating and very well written. I would definitely recommend this book to just about anyone.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,390 reviews582 followers
March 24, 2016
The writing is smooth and the 4 characters have flow. And the premise is interesting, yet at the same time without undo explanation. (I would have liked more of the clone transfer information to be real in detail.)

But overall, as much as I appreciated that this author actually DOES know Chicago, I couldn't connect to these 4 characters. It wasn't just an aspect of liking them or not liking them. They all seemed so much CUBS fans and on a sphere that was rather elevated from the get-go and within extremely protective environments, not excluding the politician. Connie was the one who seemed the most real.

Hoping this writer can make something which has more depth and more action and onus within the plotting. She has potential. I'm sure that the younger readers might like this and have much stronger connection to these SUB project successes. Cloning a new body at age?
Profile Image for Maureen.
634 reviews
September 15, 2015
Really excellent and quite surprising. This book is not at all science fictiony despite its premise. It is at its heart a character study and a darn fine one at that. Chiarella manages to give each of the four main characters their own distinct voice. Masterfully done and a great read.

ARC from publisher.
Profile Image for ash | spaceyreads.
349 reviews209 followers
October 29, 2018
A disappointed no from me. DNF at page 60. This is a great premise - 4 individuals wake up from terminal illness in a newly-engineered body - their body, but polished and upgraded. No flaws, no genes for illness.

I am impressed because this book is trying to start a conversation on what is not usually explored - your body as being part of your identity and self. Not in the way commonly portrayed in media, as in your perception of yourself and your actual physical abilities, which of course counts towards your self and identity. Chiarella also recognises other aspects of self that is important and her choice of characters to portray them are thought-provoking - bodily memory (as seen in the artist that lost all muscle memory of being able to paint), addictions and habits (which David struggles with, because addiction is not only biological, but habitual and psychological), and identity as a thing that stems from social interaction (a mother who has been paralysed for years struggle with re-integrating into her own family because for years the dynamics of her interactions with them had been completely different).

All that said, what's really sad is that I can't get any of these from the actual book. The book consist of (at least for the first 60 pages) back-and-forth long-winded conversations between the characters, and no visible or promised character growth or plot that is in-depth or interesting. Abandoned after pages of conversation between two characters about a tv show.
Profile Image for Chaitra.
3,536 reviews
March 16, 2016
Sometimes I wonder about literary fiction. The plot of this book supposes that humans can be cloned into a perfect copy, accelerated growth and all, and have their memories transferred from their old bodies to the new. The clones will not have the genetic defects that their old sources did, and while they also seem to not be capable of doing the things the sources did, they're also less likely to self-destruct. So. If this was a genre book, it would have upwards of 1000 pages, a thriller like plot, but also pages and pages of metaphysical questions. It would've been a soap box for the author, true, but, the questions would have been there.

Instead, here we follow the personal lives of the four test subjects, chosen by lottery (compromised). Hannah is an artist who wants to be extraordinary, but her clone has forgotten how to hold a brush. Linda is a mom of two who met with an accident eight years ago and was paralyzed neck down, and now that she is mobile and can speak, she doesn't know what to do with it. Connie is an AIDS patient, an actress on the verge of taking off, and now she wants to get back to it. David (the one who compromised the lottery) is a Republican congressman, a skirt chaser and a party hard and who cannot seem to stop his impulses even in his clone.

Not knocking character studies, but these characters are, well, boring. As well, they are unlikable. Beyond one statement towards the end of the book about why they were chosen, and maybe they were not worthy, not one of them internally thinks about the miracle that let them live. They spend their time whining, instead of actually living the life that they were granted. I wanted to shake them and tell them to live, actually feel the morning sun, and stand in awe of the fact that they have a second chance. How does that joy not envelope you morning, noon and night? How can you know such pain and the absence of pain leave you with so much time and space to crib about boo hoo I can't paint anymore? I couldn't take them seriously, it didn't feel like they came from a wrenching, traumatic experience. Maybe they were in shock, but I don't know. I felt like it was a continuation of their ordinary lives, while what they went through made them extraordinary.

The only person I felt remotely close to was Connie. She was the most likable of the lot, she was the only one who had an arc as such. Linda, I couldn't get a grip on. She was what I would call would-be interesting, but I couldn't quite figure out her ennui. David is a sleazy scumbag and doesn't have much else to him. The author wanted us to root for Hannah, I think, but I couldn't. Hannah is the tattooed artist who has a great boyfriend, but she can't paint anymore and she thinks her boyfriend had an affair with her sister. She had one line, though, that I was in full agreement with, that almost made up for the me,me,me attitude she sported. She asks her friend if the friend would really want to be with someone who would leave her to die alone. No. No, you don't. Which is why I'm disappointed the book ended with .
Profile Image for Douglas Lord.
710 reviews28 followers
February 22, 2016
So. You fucked up somewhere along the line and contracted a terminal illness, and now you’ve agreed to be an experimental subject in a secret program where your own brain is put into a body cloned from you. Ahhhhh, schweppervescence: a fresh new you. But is it a new you? You’re still you—or are you? Admirably, Chiarella eschews spoon-feeding the plot in favor of dripping and accruing a story from pieces and small details. Characters’ physical restorations—“The freckles on my nose and cheeks are gone. My skin is poreless, scrubbed of its ruddiness and even the barest hints of sun damage, like a doll’s face”—only scratch the surface (hah) of the deeper meaning of identity. Something’s off, be it that you don’t enjoy coffee like you did or you can’t hold your paintbrush correctly. New selves start chains of questions: Do you really even like your wife/husband/cat? And if so…why? How much of us is in us? From where come our hearts, spirits, identities? Freaky. Told through the alternating perspectives of four clearly delineated characters, each person is surprised by their new self, especially as they remember who they thought they were. Like the best literate fiction (Margaret Atwood comes to mind), this slides around the emotional core of each character; each is authentic and independent, and Chiarella strives to maintain their individual narratives. And we’d better deal with this essential question: What makes us who we are? Because this becoming reality is headed our way fast. Biologically, figuratively, spiritually, we are more than just an amalgamation of experiences and emotions and guts and fiddly bits; a clone won’t have scars, won’t have damage, and similarly won’t have experienced the joys of caffeine, sex, chocolate. VERDICT Who we are, in Chiarella’s view, seems to be more than what we are.

Find reviews of books for men at Books for Dudes, Books for Dudes, the online reader's advisory column for men from Library Journal. Copyright Library Journal.
Profile Image for Caiti S.
276 reviews250 followers
March 9, 2016
4.5 Stars. I thought this was a thought-provoking character study and a very enjoyable read. It looks at four terminally-ill/disabled patients—a congressman, an artist, a mother, and a former actress—who take part in an experimental medical program that allows them to receive a perfectly cloned healthy body and explores how they adjust to their second chance at life. It was fascinating to think about—how our bodies become maps of our life experiences with scars and callouses and stretch marks, how our identity is shaped and expressed by our physical appearances, how second chances don't erase the past. I thought the multiple POVs were handled well; each character had an entirely unique voice and I appreciate that the four characters stories were not entirely intertwined or interdependent. My only complaint was that two of the characters were developed more fully than the other two. I would have enjoyed a slightly longer book that gave more to these other two characters.
Profile Image for Shawna.
846 reviews20 followers
November 28, 2015
Really interesting take on cloning, Chiarella switches focus onto actual character development, and what people could go through having a new body.

I appreciated her story telling, and the new take. The book didn't wow me unfortunately. Interesting concept, I thought maybe the characters had things a bit easy in life, even when they were facing their own adjustment challenges. There was potential in the story lines to be bigger than they were if the ideas could have been more flushed out, and given more substance, but overall it was entertaining, and easy to read (4 different characters all telling their stories and Chiarella did an excellent job making it effortless to keep them all straight.)
Profile Image for Kristin-Leigh.
335 reviews10 followers
March 6, 2016
Well-written in terms of prose but not stunning, the kind of story where you know exactly how it's all going to play out: the artist who has trouble painting in her new body with a reporter boyfriend who will eventually betray her confidence and publish an article about the trials, the scummy womanizing republican congressman whose wife is conniving and hypocritical, the actress with a backstory of childhood sexual abuse... It's all familiar ground, nothing insightful or particularly new compared to all the other explorations of this sci-fi trope.

That said I'll be interested to see what Chiarella publishes in the future. There's potential here.
April 30, 2019
This story is set slightly in the future. Four different people on the brink of death are the incredibly fortunate "lottery" recipients of a new technology: they are given cloned, perfectly health versions of their bodies and a fresh chance at life. What an exciting premise! You wouldn't think it possible that it could be turned into a novel so unbelievably dull and depressing. But this author pulled it off.
Profile Image for AmberBug com*.
463 reviews105 followers
January 19, 2016
www.shelfnotes.com review
Dear Reader,

This was a unique read. I'm a science fiction fan and I love books that can delve into that genre without being TOO much sci-fi (if you know what I mean). This was kind of like that except it didn't go far enough, I'd categorize it as "Literary Fiction with a dash of Science Fiction". What was nice about the whole thing is that this book is one I can definitely see myself recommending to those readers trying science fiction out (pretty perfect for that). The story is all about this exclusive group of people who have been selected for a trial (think clinical trial) to test out being uploaded into a clone body. Each of the characters had a reason to be selected (some terrible illness) and each got a new purpose to live. How they decided to run with it was their own.

I enjoyed getting to see all the perspectives of what would/could happen if you had a second chance to live your life. Each one of them was on the brink of such a terrible illness that this chance should have been entirely positive. That was not the case. What would happen if you got downloaded into a new body? Would you enjoy the youthful new skin or would it freak you out? The Author does an excellent job going over all the little nuances that might come up if/when this type of procedure comes about. We have the Artist who can't paint the same way... is it her or the new body? What about the woman who was stuck inside her body for years with no way to communicate except for blinking... how can she cope in the world after all that time shut up? Or the actress who wants to make a comeback after being hidden from the world from her illness... will she be able to pick up where she left off? The most complex of them all being the Congressman, the one who gets picked or did he buy his way in? So many questions and the Author addresses them each.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves to read "what if" tales... this fits into that category perfectly.

Happy Reading,

P.S. - Thank you Netgalley and Touchstone for giving me the opportunity to read and review this title.
Profile Image for Kath Quiambao Lau.
485 reviews176 followers
March 8, 2020
Four individuals who are suffering from terminal illnesses have been selected for a pilot program called SUBlife. Their brain cells were transferred to a perfect clone of their bodies before they got sick. All their imperfections and illnesses are now gone.

This book is written in four different POVs and the author did a great job on making the characters distinguishable from one another. The author's choice of character portrayals was also quite interesting to read. I was really into the story until the second half of the book. I lost interest with the characters which was disappointing since this is a character-driven book. There wasn't enough grounds for me to sympathise with all of them. There were also no solid character development in my opinion.

It wasn't huge on the scientific part which was both a bad and good thing for me. I would like to know more about the process/procedures of SUBlife but at the same time, I get that the main focus of this book is to tell the experiences and changes that the characters went through post-SUBlife. This book is about second chances in life and self-identity. It was a fast and easy read but I thought it could have been more.
Profile Image for Ann.
5,291 reviews62 followers
October 11, 2015
This was an exceptional read for a first time author. A beautiful blend of science fiction and everyday human life today. The story follows 4 terminally ill patients who have their bodies cloned, genetically altered to get rid of their illness and have their brains transferred into their new bodies. My favorite patient is Hannah, a young artist who was dying of lung cancer. She and her boyfriend Sam struggle to get their young lives back on track after planning and dealing with her impending death. So well written that you really can see this happening in the future. Can't wait for Jessica Chiarella's next book.
Profile Image for Stephanie (Books in the Freezer).
434 reviews1,121 followers
July 26, 2016
This was my pick for my book club this month. I'm a big fan of the literary-sci-fi genre, so this was a no-brainer to pick. I enjoyed the premise, and the author did a great job of fleshing out these unlikable characters. The characters were definitely the best part of the story. I would've enjoyed a little more focus on the actual science behind the premise or at least more of a discussion about the ethics behind it, but it was a fast, character-driven read.
Profile Image for Jessica Sullivan.
521 reviews442 followers
March 15, 2016
Even the most groundbreaking medical advances can have unexpected consequences. In this literary debut, four individuals with terminal illnesses are given the chance to trade in their dying bodies for genetically perfect replicas as part of a pilot program called SUBlife.

It sounds like an incredible opportunity with few drawbacks - after all, our bodies are only vessels for the memories, thoughts and feelings that make up who we are. But as each character begins to realize, our physical identities may be equally important - and even a flawless clone of an original body doesn't retain those essential physical memories.

Jumping back and forth between each of the four characters, we learn that even as they are given a second chance at life, their old problems are bound to resurface. Ultimately, we're left asking ourselves a familiar question that arises in many sci-fi stories: is "playing god" ever for the best? At what cost?

An undeniably fascinating premise, though I did find that many of the characters felt like cliches. Still, ultimately it redeemed itself with a strong ending for each of them.
Profile Image for Kelly Hager.
3,102 reviews132 followers
January 9, 2016
This book would be perfect for book clubs. I think there'd be a great discussion centered around the question of whether you'd be willing to get a new body (your own body, granted, but still) if it meant that you'd lose important aspects of yourself. Yes, it'd be wonderful to be healthy again (even without the added benefit of being beautiful) but would you be as excited about it if you lost the thing that made you special?

There are also the political questions (is it okay to clone people? How do you decide who gets a second chance at life and who has to remain paralyzed or die of cancer?).

And Again is full of the "What would I do in this situation?" questions. And the answers aren't easy, either.

I wish I had gotten more of an understanding of the four main characters but I wonder if Jessica Chiarella wasn't deliberately trying to keep them as broad strokes so that the reader could more easily see themselves in each potential situation.

Profile Image for Mel.
661 reviews15 followers
November 19, 2015
I loved this book. At first I thought it was lofty to compare this book to Station Eleven and Never Let Me Go, and while I still don't think it's a similar book (those books were literature heavy, as in there was a lot to read in to and a lot of wonderful prose), I loved the character development in this book.

What I also really loved was the basic point, or central thought to this book - is all of your personality solely in your mind, or does it reside in your body and your muscle memory as well? The characters grappled with this question while also learning about themselves and what makes YOU, you.

I gobbled this book up in about a day, and it was well worth my time. I got it as an ARC from work, but I seriously think I'll buy the hardcover in January because I liked it so much I want it as part of my collection of books.
Profile Image for Kirin McCrory.
115 reviews
September 11, 2016
A stellar work of fiction by a wonderful young writer. Chiarella's fiction is cinematic, in that she crafts such clear, engaging characters you can't help but want to see them on screen. This book flew by--I finished it in a single afternoon. Through interwoven narratives about 4 very different people undergoing the same medical miracle, this book begs the question: how badly do we want to live forever, and is it worth it? Or maybe the question is: what makes us who we are? You can uncover plenty of questions buried deep within this book, but it is not a book of questions. It's a book of humanity, plain and simple, and Chiarella's crisp, vibrant prose is an enjoyable vessel.
Profile Image for Andrew.
Author 24 books53 followers
May 18, 2016
“Is it what they were talking about on the radio?” he asks, releasing my hand and sitting back in his chair. “A few years ago all anyone could talk about was the UN passing an exception to the ban on human cloning. They were saying it was probably for medical research.”

“It was,” I reply, though I shouldn’t be surprised that Dr. Grath would put the pieces together. “There are four of us, in Chicago at least. I’m not sure how many across the country.”

“How does it work?” He’s very calm, for someone who’s just realized he’s sitting across the table from a clone of his best friend. It makes me want to hug him, though I don’t.

“They cut into your brain. The process kills you, but they’re able to extract pieces of the memory center of your brain and transfer it into a new body, into a clone of yourself. It’s sort of like injecting stem cells. The brain matter takes room in the clones and grows there. You become a new person,” I say. “Well, the same person, but a new body.”

“So how old are you?” he asks. He looks a little pale. I wonder if it was a good idea to tell him, if he’s too old and too fragile for these sorts of revelations.

“I guess, maybe a few months old? But they use hormones to rapidly age the clones so they match up with the age you are at the time of transfer. I guess they figured it would be a bit unnerving for adults to wake up in the bodies of infants. They’re all about the psychological effects, let me tell you. I have to go to a support group every week for a year.”


SUBlife: an experimental procedure, up for FDA approval, in which participants are selected via lottery to receive a new lease on life—quite literally. The lucky few, all of whom are dying from one thing or another, are cloned, their bodies aged to be what they were upon the death of their original models, and then given a transfer—bits of the brain’s memory centre are ported into the clone, so that the individual in question is able to start a second life with a full memory of their first.

If only it were so simple, though; as with any experimental procedure, the humans at the heart of it have their own issues, agendas, and reasons for wanting the ultimate of do-overs. Only in this instance they are forced to grapple with some larger-than-life questions, such as whether or not they are in fact the same people they once were, or if the transfer process, if vacating one body for another, has changed them or made them somehow less human.

Author Chiarella focuses the narrative on only one of these groups of people, cloned at Northwestern in Chicago: Hanna, an idealistic young painter with metastatic lung cancer; Linda, a mother and scholar trapped in a waking coma for eight years following a car accident; Connie, an actress who burned bright, got into drugs, and contracted HIV; and David, a right-wing US Congressman with a brain tumour the size of a golf ball.

Upon winning this lottery of lotteries, the four are given certain stipulations—they’re not to take up potentially life-altering pursuits such as skydiving and smoking, for example. Additionally, they are to meet as a support group every week for a year, to chart their progress, as the success of the program’s wider implementation rests on their cloned shoulders.

It’s during the support group, however, that we learn the most from these characters—both of their pasts (all of which are troubled in some way, shape, or form, though none more than Linda’s) and of the challenges and fears they must confront due to the fact that, effectively, they’ve died and pulled a Jesus 2.0. Some of their challenges are quite personal, such as Hannah realizing that her muscle memory for painting has not carried over to her new body; on the other hand David’s plot deals not only with the fact that he bought his way into the experiment but that he did so knowing that the God his constituents believe in, and indeed their beliefs in general, starkly oppose human cloning and, in essence, humans playing god.

Right about now I need to say a couple of things, in the interest of fair play: first, I greatly enjoyed Chiarella’s novel. It plays fast and loose with the science, naturally, but she sells it about as much as she needs to. Because it’s not about the hows or the whys, or if it’s even possible, on any conceivable level, for something like this to work; it’s about the characters, and the asking of a very real, very straightforward question: What is it that makes us human?

The second thing I need to say, and this is where it gets a bit awkward for me, is that I am a very biased reviewer with respect to this specific book, and that what prompted me to pick this title up in the first place was in reading the synopsis and saying aloud in the bookstore, “Well, fuck me, this sounds familiar.” In short, my second book, which I’ve been working on for six years now and which is currently in its fifth round of edits, shares a number of elements with Chiarella’s at the DNA level—from the cloning and transferring of minds to the resultant questions and attempts to understand what’s lost in the process, as well as what’s gained. In short, this was both exciting and a little unnerving, because the last thing any writer wants to see is their ideas or similar approximations in another’s text—we all want to view ourselves as original snowflakes, after all.

Thankfully, however, Chiarella and I differ in our focus, and with respect to the specificity of certain things. As such, I was able to detach a little more from my own work and enjoy this for what it is—a fast-paced character study with some rather lofty ideas.

While I never lost interest in what was happening or the ways in which the story progressed, I do have a few issues with certain narrative choices, and things dropped too quickly or not touched upon at all.

On the strictly narrative side of things, the affair between Hannah and David, who on paper are ethical opposites that despise one another, never really rang true. While it’s justified as two basically reborn people attempting to rationalize their new and old lives and to better understand how to define their current existence, it still felt like one of those things that is inserted into the text because the author simply needed to create further conflict. In short, it didn’t feel earned, and was not helped in this regard by the gaps of sometimes months between each part, in which a fair amount of off-the-page development seemed to occur.

I also would have loved to see further exploration into questions of their autonomy, and whether or not their lack thereof in certain circumstances alters their individual perspectives on what they now are: humans, or products of a larger corporate and/or scientific entity. This concern is most evident when Linda becomes pregnant, at her husband’s request, to try and save their splintering family, only when she has second thoughts she learns she cannot abort the child because the SUBlife committee needs the data from her pregnancy. And because her life and body had been signed over to them, she is given no say in the matter.

It also would have been interesting to witness more of the political and societal fallout from the story getting leaked to the outside world. While yes, this is meant to be an intimate tale of what’s lost and what can be regained or reset on a life-by-life basis, it’s difficult, sometimes, to take a story like this and place it in such a tight bottle—because the ramifications of such a thing merely existing would be so far reaching and dramatic as to change the tenor of the world. It’s the Robert Sawyer problem—stories that change the world but feel like they’re the size and scope of a stage play. Where Chiarella succeeds, though, and where Sawyer fails and fails and fails some more, is in having strong, intelligent characters who are struggling to figure out what their changed identity means.

To bring it back around to my aforementioned bias, I felt while reading And Again that certain character changes came about a little quickly. There’s nothing paid to the idea that their bodies are new save for their fresh and youthful appearances and an inability to taste as they once did, or handle their liquor—or, as revealed later, to be able to carry a pregnancy to term. But there’s nothing to the idea that these bodies, prior to waking up, are unused and would need extensive physical rehab; there’s also little on the medical side of things concerned with the ways in which they function differently, with respect to remembering certain skills but not having the muscle memory to carry them out (ie: Hannah and her painting). One would think they’d be given more attentive care throughout, to adjust and track such things, given all that’s riding on their ability to re-enter their lives as effortlessly and conflict-free as possible. But again, I’m projecting my own ideas onto what is, in the end, a very different story with only a similar overarching conceit.

What carries this book in the end is the journey of its four main characters. Their paths are unpredictable, for the most part, and even when they do fall into either uncharacteristic or seemingly unearned behaviours, we give them grace because they are, in some ways literally, no longer themselves. And they are figuring out what that means at the same time we are learning both who they were and who they now are.

And Again is a quick read, and while I’m not always a fan of the first person, especially when switching between characters, Chiarella gives them each a unique enough voice that one never becomes lost. This is terrific summer reading that asks a little more of its readers than the standard popcorn fare, and is successful in what it sets out to do. Definitely recommended.
Profile Image for Erin Crane.
644 reviews6 followers
June 16, 2021
This might be a 3.5 rounded up? Not sure. I definitely have some gripes with this story, but I really enjoyed a lot of what it explored.

My gripes are that I think I could’ve done without Connie or David. Their stories were the least interesting to me. I also felt like if this was really a lottery (minus David), shouldn’t this group be a little more diverse? Like, include poor people? Connie is sort of recently poor but also a celebrity and turns back to that career afterward. Hannah should’ve been poor but somehow wasn’t 😂 is she surviving on parent money?? It mentions her parents are wealthy, but not specifics about where she gets her money.

I know Hannah and Linda are unlikeable depending on how you feel about their actions. But I think for both of them their actions partly come from succumbing to expectations and pressures around them pre-cloning. This second chance at life has created an opportunity to rethink those decisions and dealing with that is messy. Plus, I don’t think you should stay with someone just because you think they are a good person. If you don’t love them or want them as a partner, that doesn’t matter.

I also didn’t see Sam as SO great like Hannah did 😂 I think there should be some ways he could talk to Hannah about his pain, but his approach was way off to me. You shouldn’t try to one-up the person who was dying in levels of pain. I heard this idea recently about how to best handle expressing emotional pain in situations when someone you love is hurting or dying or whatever. The idea is to consider the person hurting/dying at the center of a circle. The next layer up could be the spouse or partner. Then the next layer family, then friends. The less close you are to a person in pain, the further out you are in the layers. The advice I heard was to never vent/spill your guts to someone further down in the layers than you (closer to the person in pain). Do that with people further up in the layers. So when Sam dumps all his pain on Hannah, I think he’s overstepping because /she’s/ the one who was dying!

Ultimately, I loved the exploration of what a second chance at life might really look like. That you might think 1) everything will go back to normal, but then it doesn’t or you realize you don’t want it to or 2) that you’ll be a much better person and then whoops you’re still you 😉
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